Ghost Week: A Steer Called Murder


If you’ve just got back from a weekend of galivanting about, making silly chicken noises, refusing to wear pants, and not reading my blog, here’s the extremely complicated summary of what happened yesterday and Saturday — I’m telling y’all some of the Lubbock ghost stories I know about. We’re not talking about well-known stuff like the Lubbock Lights or the Levelland UFO or the sightings at St. John Neumann Catholic Church or the Blacke Asylum. This is the stuff that doesn’t make it to the tourism brochures.

For the next one, we gotta start kinda far afield. We start out way, way back on January 28, 1890 near Alpine. A bunch of small-time ranchers were rounding up unbranded cattle to fill out their herds. And there’s this one steer they find that’s really something else — huge, black as night, an absolutely magnificent animal, and completely brand free. An animal this big ending up without a brand at all is an almost impossible stroke of good luck.

Unfortunately, two of the ranchers want this steer bad. Henry Harrison Powe and Fine Gilliant want to stake their claims and get their brand on this animal. They argue, the argument escalates, and the friendly communal roundup ends with Powe lying dead with a bullet in him.

At that point, the other ranchers don’t much want the steer in their herds any more. Might be bad luck or worse. So they brand the steer on one side with the date: “Jan 28 90” — and on the other side, in big, bold letters:


And they set it free.

It took a few days for Fine Gilliant to get caught, and in the ensuing shootout, he ends up with a bullet in him, too. And off in the distance, someone sees the steer watching the whole thing.

And they say it still shows up from time to time in the West. They call it the Steer Called Murder, and it seems to function as an omen of death. It’s not all that well-known, not compared to some of the legendry out there, but it’s a legend with a decent bit of class going for it.

Okay, that was the backstory. No, I ain’t wasting your time with Big Bend folklore.

So a while back, in the “early aughts,” as I like to call ’em, there was this little family living out in the sticks a little south of Idalou. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant family. They were close to dirt-poor, living out of a single-wide. And the husband was a drunk and an abuser. The whole awful stereotype.

The wife took it for years, ’cause she didn’t think she had any other options, and ’cause he didn’t bother the kids, just her. She put up with it for years, and covered for him, and bandaged herself up, and told the sheriff everything was fine, she just ran into the wall now and again.

She put up with it until the night he came home way drunker than usual, knocked her around good, and chased one of the kids outside, roaring that he was gonna kill them all. She wasn’t gonna put up with that, and she got the shotgun off the wall, went outside, and blew her husband’s head most of the way off.

She turns around to go back inside and call the sheriff, and right next to the trailer, there’s a huge, doom-black steer standing there looking at her. And she can see, written across its side in letters so red and bloody they almost glowed in the dark, a brand that said “MURDER.

The cops came out and snooped around, the ambulance took her husband away, relatives and the CPS came and fussed over the kids, and no one ever saw any steer anywhere around the property.

No Comments

  1. Maxo Said,

    October 26, 2009 @ 10:11 am

    Great series, Scott — I’m looking forward to the rest of the week!

  2. swampy Said,

    October 26, 2009 @ 7:56 pm

    a really moo-ving story…LOL